GFT Blog: Rachel Visits Tribeca Film Festival

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Times Square & Tribeca Hub

I was lucky enough to be allowed by my most excellent colleagues at Glasgow Film to extend my recent trip to the states to include a few days at Tribeca Film Festival.   I had not been to New York since I was a teenager, and I have wanted to return to the city ever since! 

The film festival itself if really interesting – it was started in 2002 by Robert DeNiro and some of his chums, in a direct response to the September 11 attacks and the way that they had affected the vibrancy and creativity of the downtown Tribeca neighbourhood, which is in close proximity to the former World Trade Centre site.

The first edition of the festival included a ‘Best of New York’ series, curated by Martin Scorsese, and the premieres of some huge studio films including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Star Wars: Episode II –Attack of the Clones, and was attended by over 150,000 people – a figure that doubled in it’s second year.

Over the last 16 years the festival has grown and has become an important launchpad for new and independent American film.

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Chelsea & Lady Liberty

It’s a slightly strange festival in terms of geography, with the festival Hub being based in the heart of TriBeCa (the Triangle Below Canal Street) – while the VAST majority of the screenings are based in Chelsea – at least 30 blocks uptown. As a result - and despite the fact that the Festival Hub had a lovely rooftop – I spent most of my time in Chelsea close to the Cinepolis Chelsea cinema – where all the daytime Press and Industry screenings take place, and where I was most likely to be able to get tickets to the evening public screenings (although this was a bit tricky).     

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Outside Cinepolis Cinema

I saw ten films in total – a real mixture of drama and documentary, although largely from the US.  Out of my top two films, one was Finnish – Tom of Finland, from director Dome Karukoski (Heart of a Lion, The Grump – GFF15),

I was familiar with Tom of Finland's work - but did not know much about him. However, I was totally gripped by this story – and the way the film captured the background  and the attitude and changing perceptions around homosexuality and homophobia over his lifespan, including dire oppression in his home of Finland, and relative acceptance in the US, followed by the backlash when the AIDs crisis stikes. A really beautifully shot film – and the lead actor (Pekka Strang) was excellent – managing to portray the man convincingly over the various decades. The other was a small and low-key independent Abundant Acreage Available from director Angus MacLachlan (good Scottish name!). It's about family, heritage, spirituality and some other pretty big ideas, but handled in a really low-key way – and with great performances – and EPed by Martin Scorsese.

I was staying in the West Village (at the Jane Hotel – top tip – don’t ever stay there – worth a blogpost in itself, but I’ll refrain!), close to the Meatpacking district – and so became adept at taking a different route to wander through the Village to Chelsea and back every day – walks on which I accidentally discovered The Chelsea Hotel (which is unfortunately shut for renovation until later in the year) and some very cool bars, including The Trailer Park Lounge – right opposite Cinepolis.

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The Chelsea Hotel & The Trailer Park

It's quite unusual for me not to know lots of people at Film Festivals – at least in the UK, and so it was a bit disappointing that none of the social events for industry attendees seemed to kick off until the first weekend of the festival (I left that Saturday evening!), and typically returned to the office on the Monday morning to an inbox full of invitations for festival hospitality and events!  Harumph!

I did manage to make a few side trips as well – including an excursion to Ellis Island and the Immigration Museum (featured very recently in Brooklyn), and to the Tenement Museum (you can take the girl out of Glasgow… etc.) while exploring Little Italy and the Bowery.

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Little Italy & The Bowery

I also took myself on a date to A BRONX TALE – the Musical version of DeNiro’s 1993 film, which was co-directed by him, and with the book by Chazz Palminteri, at the beautiful Longacre Theatre just off Broadway. I thoroughly enjoyed this – a very entertaining and well put together show, with an incredibly accomplished performance from Hudson Loverro as the young Sonny – this kid’s probably going to be a huge star!

I also spent a most wonderful few hours at MOMA – which really is a wonderful gallery. This was marred only slightly by people who prefer to take pictures of the artworks rather than actually looking at them…. weird….

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The Financial District & A Bronx Tale

Anyway – I had a great trip, saw some great films, made some new friends, and thoroughly enjoyed New York. I hope that I might return to Tribeca Film Fest at some point again – but would aim to stay further downtown in Tribeca, and to either stay for longer, or at least go into the second week.

For more info about the film festival, visit here.

For info regarding the juried award winners, visit here.

Rachel Fiddes
GFF Manager

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